The coming into effect of seven new cities last Wednesday fits well into the aspirations of the integrated UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly goal eight, nine, 10 and 11.
The UN member states, to which Uganda is party, in 2015 adopted 17 SDGs as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030.
The goals are geared towards reducing inequality within and among countries and making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.
Governments are implored to ensure a ‘high standard of living, quality of life and well-being of all citizens.’
The new cities will have to work hard to be able to live up to these and other local aspirations.
Cities are also supposed to help decongest the capital, Kampala that is chocking on pollution and traffic jam, and has 67 per cent of the national wealth-to create equitable development.
However, the cities face big hurdles.
They are still housed in municipal council premises, inherited municipal council budgets with residents jostling for political and technical jobs.
“Nothing new is in place. We are still implementing the projects we were doing under municipal status. We are going for a meeting with the Ministry of Local Government officials together with district chairpersons and we shall come back with clear information and guidelines on what to do in the city,” Mr George Labeja, the Interim Gulu City Mayor, said on Monday.
Interim mayors for the newly created Gulu West and Gulu East municipalities have not yet been chosen.
Mr Moses Abonga, who has been Laroo Division Chairperson, that now falls under Gulu East, said they have failed to agree on who should be their mayor.
“The Ministry of Local Government knew about the struggle for power the moment divisions were merged but still they left it in hands of local leaders. They will not agree and the ministry will be forced to intervene,” Mr Abonga said.
Experts say creating jobs in these cities will require having enough land on which to establish industries and attracting local and foreign investors.
Development and physical plans must be in place in these cities.
Infrastructure like paved roads, office buildings, stadiums and lighting streets require a lot of money.
Competent technical and development oriented political leadership are needed.
District leaders speak out
These aspects are not yet in place or have largely not yet been put into consideration.
Arua City Mayor, Hajj Issa Kato said they do not have adequate power, enough water and good roads.
The city is implementing a budget of Shs28 billion inherited from the municipal council.
“The journey started with joy and happiness but huge challenges lie ahead of us. We welcome partners to contribute to the development of the city,” Hajj Kato said.
They are yet to choose an interim mayors for Arua Central and Ayivu Municipalities.
Mbale City is still operating from municipal council offices as they wait for the district headquarters be shifted to Busoba Sub-county.
Mr Mutwalibi Zandya, the interim city mayor, said they are drafting a five-year development plan. Their budget is Shs44 billion.
The deputy city mayor of Jinja, Ms Midius Asiimwe, said they are using a Shs35 billion budget.
“Government has got plans for the new cities but to begin with, we have an existing budget that was passed (by Jinja Municipal Council) and it is the resource envelope being used,” she said.
The issues of who should be interim mayor for Jinja Northern Municipality and where the headquarters should be located have not yet been resolved.
The interim Masaka City Mayor, Mr Godfrey Kayemba Afaayo, said he plans to announce his interim executive later this week.
Masaka city is using a budget of Shs42 billion.
“We are going to make sure that we get agro processing industries in the city that will add value to agricultural products produced in the region to improve people’s financial strength and their standard of living,” said Mr Kayemba.
The interim Fort Portal City Mayor, the Rev Willy Kintu Muhanga, said there are disagreements on where the headquarters for Northern and Central Municipalities should be located.
He said that would be decided by the council or ministry of Local Government. Fort Portal City has a budget of Shs22.2 billion.
The Interim Mbarara City clerk, Mr Theo Tibihika, said on Monday that only 18 per cent (Shs 7.7 billion) of Shs43 billion budget they are operation is locally generated revenue.
“We will have to enhance our revenue collection capabilities. We must double our revenue enhancement effort,” said Mr Tibihika.
He added, “Everyone is emphasising physical planning, we do not want slums, everyone must build according to the physical plan and those who resist are going to be taken to court. We are also ready to partner with private investors to look for land from private owners.”
Dr Arthur Bainomugisha, the executive director of Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment- a think tank, and a senior lecturer in the department of public administration and governance at Uganda Christian University, says with increasing urban population, cities are going to provide market for agriculture produce and this will in turn transform lives of rural farmers.
They will also become centres of enlightenment and social- economic development.
“Cities will have highly enlightened population which is necessary for democratisation,” says Dr Bainomugisha.
The Minister of Local Government, Mr Raphael Magyezi, said during the inauguration of Mbarara city last Friday that by November, the cities should have made development plans, and indicated that central government will give them funding and other technical support.
The creation of new cities is also in line with the African Union Agenda 2063-a 50-year vision for Africa, made in 2013.
Uganda Vision 2040, approved in 2007, identifies creation of regional cities among key core projects to be undertaken in the journey.
Goal eight of the 17 SDGs emphasises inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all while goal nine promotes ‘building of resilient infrastructure, promotion of inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and fostering innovation.’
Compiled by Alfred Tumushabe, Scovia Atuhaire, Felix Warom Okello,
Al-Mahdi Ssenkabirwa, Malik F Jjingo, Wilson Kutamba, Fred Wambede,
Michael Woniala, Philip Wafula, Abubaker Kirunda and Moses Okeya &